During 2020 and the events around COVID-19 in NSW, the Co.As.It. counselling team responded to the increased demand for mental health and gambling help services, working tirelessly to support our community. With improved circumstances in 2021, life is slowly returning back to normal, however, there are still concerns around the impact of COVID-19 on mental health and problem gambling behaviours. Co.As.It. has prepared this post to help our community better understand the risk factors for problem gambling after COVID-19.
A major risk factor for problem gambling is social isolation. Social isolation is defined as a lack of social connection, leading to loneliness. Unfortunately, during 2019 the global pandemic and resulting lockdowns meant that social isolation increased. We are still grappling with the impacts of social isolation, now in the form of reduced face-to-face meetings and social distancing.
In order to manage the risk of social isolation and problem gambling, it is important to stay socially connected. You can do this by reaching out to friends and family, joining a community group or contacting support services. It is also vital to check-in with friends who seem distant or disconnected. If a face-to-face meeting is not possible, talking through ZOOM or FaceTime is a helpful substitute and can improve feelings of social connectedness and support.
Another risk factor for problem gambling, especially among adolescents, is online gaming. A recent study* conducted by CQ University and The Office of Responsible Gambling found that young people are starting to gamble from the age of 12 years old. This is due to the link between online gaming and problem gambling, with online games containing gambling-like components and encouraging in-game spending. In order to manage this risk, it is important for parents and carers to play an active role in monitoring the gaming habits of their children. Tools such as online controls and adjusting security settings can prevent children from accessing online gaming sites or seeing gaming ads. Most importantly, parents and carers must set a good example around gambling behaviours in the home, and help educate children about the risks of online gaming.
Finally, mental health issues and psychological distress are strongly associated with problem gambling. After COVID-19, many people reached out for support for issues like anxiety, grief, loss and carers stress. It is important to continually check-in with yourself regarding your mental health, and monitor signs of problem gambling, such as using gambling for stress-relief and escapism. Problem gambling can easily become a maladaptive coping strategy for mental health concerns, so seeking help in the form of counselling or talking to trusted friends and family is a much healthier approach.
If you or someone you know is struggling with problem gambling, then please don’t hesitate to contact our Co.As.It. gambling help program on (02) 9564 0744 or CLICK HERE. Together, we can manage and overcome the risks of problem gambling in a post COVID world.